The high-end sneakers business is heating up among China’s Millennial and Gen-Z generations as the country embraces the Western streetwear trend. However, a direct beneficiary — Nike — is risking to lose a bit of ground after its latest brand partner, the Japanese sneaker brand Undercover by Jun Takahashi, openly supported Hong Kong’s anti extradition bill movement on an Instagram post.
On June 21, Nike and Undercover co-released the “Daybreak” sneakers in black and green, which aroused a wide range of interest among sneakerheads in China. But Jun Takahashi’s political support for Hong Kong on Undercover’s official Instagram account (see the image above) caused negative sentiment from Chinese consumers, who took to Instagram to defend their country. There are also discussions on Chinese social media platform Weibo, with users claiming they would not buy this edition and Undercover going forward.
Since early June, over a million people in Hong Kong came to streets to protest against the local government’s decision to pass the extradition bill, which theoretically will grant Beijing the power to extradite individuals in the territory of Hong Kong to the mainland. Amnesty International, a human rights non-governmental organization (NGO), said the bill “would extend the power of the mainland authorities to target critics, human rights defenders, journalists, NGO workers and anyone else in Hong Kong.”
In reaction to Undercover’s controversial Instagram post, Nike urgently withdrew the collaboration from the Chinese market to alleviate any potential negative impact on the brand. In a WeChat post by YYSports, which is under Nike’s Chinese partner, Pou Sheng International, the distributor wrote that they would no longer sell the collection as requested by Nike.
It seems to be a necessary move for Nike, as the brand is experiencing lackluster sales around the world except for in China. The brand’s revenue in the Chinese market jumped 19 percent last quarter. Moreover, Nike is going to release its latest earnings tomorrow.